Mental health check: Seven ways to manage the stress

Therapy Dog and Mental Health

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

Exam time is upon us, meaning it is officially the season of stress. Holiday prep, studying, and paper writing is a lot to handle, but don’t let the stress break you!

To avoid a breakdown, make time for a few minutes of self-care each day – see my previous blog post for a few ideas. If you still feel overwhelmed then consider the following options:
  1. Therapy dogs or pets: Animals, especially dogs, have been proven to reduce stress levels and increase hormones that simulate the feeling of happiness and love. As a result, many universities host therapy dog events on campus during exam time – check your university’s event calendar to see if this is the case on your campus. If your university isn’t hosting an event you can still get your animal fix by visiting a local shelter or arranging a play date with a friend’s pet.
  2. Healthy Eating: Studies have shown that healthy well-balanced meals help stabilize moods and increase brain productivity. You still need to eat, so why not make sure your meals are benefiting your mental health. While you’re at it, don’t forget to stay hydrated.
  3. Family and Friends: Mental health problems are often exacerbated when you push your support system away – this is exceptionally easy to do during exam time as you’re already strapped for time. Try to remember that your family and friends, while not therapists, are there to support and ground you. When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or just generally down, sometimes all you need to do is vent to your best friend to feel a little better.
  4. On-Campus Counseling: Most universities offer on-campus counseling for their students free of charge. Generally speaking, these counselors limit their sessions to dealing with problems that arise from school-related stressors – if this describes your current situation, then schedule an appointment before they all fill up!
Even if your situation is beyond the scope of the school counselor, you should still schedule a preliminary meeting since the counselor will likely be able to point you in the right direction.

Crisis Hotline

  1. Therapy: Ongoing therapy is one of the smartest decisions anyone can make. It helps you avoid overloading your friends and family with your problems, and can also help you work through your problems/concerns. Some university health care centers offer professional therapy services (often included in your health care package), but you can also seek therapy services off-campus or remotely– just remember to check with your insurance provider to see what your plan covers.
  2. Confidential Lawyer Services: Addiction is a huge problem within the legal industry, and law students are no exception. If you feel like the added stress of exam season is leading you down this path, or if you’ve noticed that you’re already on it, then reach out to them now. Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (651-646-5590) offers free confidential one-on-one sessions, and group support sessions for legal professionals – including students – in need.
  3. Suicide& Crisis Hotlines: If you or someone you know are standing on the edge, please seek immediate help – the national suicide and crisis hotline can be reached at 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255. Suicide hotlines in every state are available via phone call (or in many cases, text) to assist you and your loved ones work through this incredibly difficult time.

A certain level of stress is natural – we are law students after all – but try your best to notice the difference between ‘normal’ exam-related stress, and more problematic forms of stress. When you feel yourself spiraling don’t hesitate to seek help; reaching out does not make you weak, it only makes you smart!

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